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Curiouser and Curiouser

Updated: Jun 9, 2021

Training teaching artists and mentoring artists of all ages and at all stages of their trajectories is very much part of the fabric of what we do at ART YARD BKLYN. I was thrilled when a few months ago our student August Levenson (who is currently in High School) asked if perhaps he could lead a session of ART YARD Advanced Studio.

August worked very hard on his lesson! Compiling a very interesting and quirky mix of artists for his PowerPoint presentation. His lesson plan was well written and thorough. August even wrote an original narrative to use as a guided meditation and inspiration for the work we created using pen or pencil in his session. Dressed in his Salvador Dali t-shirt, August was clear and engaging as an instructor. He stayed true to form for critique which was buoyant, thoughtful and filled with laughs.

August ready to teach!

August sums up the session: “In my class Curiouser and Curiouser we explored various forms of weirdness in art, better put as forms of surrealism and neo-surrealism through our art history, looking at stranger artists who, while still having a name for themselves have pushed the boundaries of collective normalcy extensively. These included the likes of Jean Michele Basquiat, Edward Gorey, Ed Rath, Mark Ryden, and Salvador Dali.

Edward Gorey, Illustration from The Doubtful Guest, 1957
Mark Ryden, Yoshi, The Forest Spirit, 2011

The assignment was primarily focused on pushing your boundaries using minimal color and little to no color, all in pen and pencil. I used some imaginary verbatim, telling a confusingly mystical story of descriptions to better suit people to the mind frame of the assignment. The assignment in question was to create a piece of art in pen or pencil with minimal color involved and take something or any form or aspect of my story and illustrate it, intentionally to push one's limits or boundaries in one creative process. This led to an ultimate flurry of creativity as people misheard parts of my story, pushed boundaries and themselves to create a surrealist piece of work, really entering the idea of the work, to work backward to move forward. The work was truly magnificent.”

August Levenson, Curiouser and Curiouser
Ed Rath, Doggin' the Walk, Curiouser and Curiouser
Maraya Lopez, Curiouser and Curiouser
Vera Tineo, Curiouser and Curiouser
Pat Larash, Curiouser and Curiouser
Wayne Gross, Curiouser and Curiouser
Delphine Levenson, Curiouser and Curiouser
Meridith McNeal, Curiouser and Curiouser
Marilyn August, Curiouser and Curiouser
Karla Prickett, Curiouser and Curiouser
Sarah Gumgumji, Curiouser and Curiouser
Robin Grant, Curiouser and Curiouser

Jacob Rath, Curiouser and Curiouser
Kevin Anderson, Curiouser and Curiouser

If you look carefully at the artwork collectively you can pick out images and concepts from August's story -- what can you find?

Congratulations and thank you August for an exceptional session of ART YARD Advanced Studio!


It was an exciting day for ART YARD Art Matters at PS 282 as Teaching Artist Vera Tineo and I zoomed into kindergarten and first grade in person classes! We loved working with our new students and classroom teachers!

Vera presented the first session in her cycle The Shapes of Our Community. With her own work serving as the springboard for the session, Vera asked that students to look carefully at their reference photographs to find the shapes which made up the portrait. Students first sketched those shapes in pencil and then colored their work with the material of their choice.

Finding the shapes in a portrait by Paul Klee
Vera Tineo, Portrait of ART YARD Art Matters at PS 282 on Zoom

When I complimented first grade teacher Ms. Valerio on the work of her students, she replied that she is "a firm believer children should be engaging in opportunities to explore the arts." Brava, Ms. Valerio!

Shape portraits by first graders: Aria, Nate, Mya, Liam, Taylor and Nico:

Gabriel, PS 282 Shape Portrait

Shape portraits by first graders: Lily, Djuna, Julissa and Joshua:

Kindergarten teacher Ms. Lescure writes: “The children loved having an art class and enjoyed learning how to make people through shapes. They also loved being creative by making their pieces a little abstract. The children created amazing pieces depicting themselves, animals, and other people. Their creativity quite evident in the colors they used.”

Zeke, PS 282 Shape Portrait
Hayu, PS 282 Shape Portrait
Emily, PS 282 Shape Portrait
Alessandro, PS 282 Shape Portrait
Rocky, PS 282 Shape Portrait
Mikhayla, PS 282 Shape Portrait
Zoe, PS 282 Shape Portrait

We followed our classroom lessons with now familiar virtual classes, bringing art lessons to PS 282 students working remotely.

Coco painted a portrait of her teacher Ms. Sarah. June made a self-portrait. August created an elaborate portrait of an imaginary character. Emma painted Coco with careful depiction of her donut patterned blouse.

August, PS 282 Shape Portrait

We had some nice drawings of self-portraits with family members - Lucy and her sister and Logan and her brother, and Miles with his brother & grandparents.

Lucy, PS 282 Shape Portrait
Logan, PS 282 Shape Portrait
Miles, PS 282 Shape Portrait

Kylar created a spectacular self-portrait capturing not only the shapes in her face, outfit and hair but also beautifully captures her gesture.

Kylar, PS 282 Shape Portrait

Vera explains: “I have been working with our Art Matters at PS282 students since the start of our collaboration. I know how talented these young artists are and yet I was completely blown away with the portraits they did in my class today!! These truly focused students really care about their work. They showed an extraordinary understanding of shapes and how to use colors to create a composition. The students exceeded my expectations with their understanding the world and it is wonderful to observe how effortlessly they are able tell their story on paper.”

I loved seeing all the pets in our students home community!

Check out this week’s video recap here:

We had an additional day with PS 282 students this week as we began docent training with 1st and 2nd graders for our end of year exhibition. In addition to reviewing all of the projects we worked on this year, we worked on presentation skills and public speaking.


3rd graders at ART YARD Art Matters at PS 6 in Jersey City continued their lesson, Flags of Unity, with Teaching Artist Sarah Gumgumji. Many completed their updated versions of the American flag from last week’s class and moved on to a new project to design their school flag.

Sarah’s presentation showed a variety of flags with emblematic symbols and colors - such as the state flag of New Jersey (their motto is “Liberty and Prosperity “ which are symbolized by figures of women .. and the state animal , the horse), other school flags and college/university pennants.

We learned that PS 6’s colors are BLUE and GOLD (again, symbolic of liberty and prosperity) and their logo/mascot is the OWL (of course, representing wisdom and learning). Sarah discussed what owls represent in art, on coins, and showed an image of a bas relief of an owl from the entrance gate to the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park. Students were interested in learning more about owls and understood that the caricature of an owl used for logos and as mascots were cartoonish which led to their determination to draw/paint realistic looking owls.

Rayansh, PS 6 Symbolic Flags

Aghilas’ flag had LOTS of symbolism - and he was able to explain every single bit, including hearts standing for the branches of government, birds interpreting freedom, and others to depict friendship, peace and liberty. Another student drew stripes in blue and gold - 5 of them - to indicate his rating of PS 6 - 5 out of 5 stars! Isabella’s drawing of a pixelated heart (with American flag stars and stripes) is her interpretation of what one might see if creating a flag on a computer. Joan explained that she googled the color YELLOW to find that it means JOY and thus chose it for her flag. David opted for a parrot instead of an owl because of its ability to speak.

Isabella, PS 6 Symbolic Flags
Joan, PS 6 Symbolic Flags
David, PS 6 Symbolic Flags
Soryn, PS 6 Symbolic Flags
Melany, PS 6 Symbolic Flags
Mayank, PS 6 Symbolic Flags

Students were given the liberty to choose flag shapes (pennant/triangle or rectangular) and also to change the school colors BUT every color, symbol or figure needed to have a meaning relative to their school. The results are terrific - with lots of great drawings of owls!

Muhaddis, PS 6 Symbolic Flags
Ali, PS 6 Symbolic Flags
Cailey, PS 6 Symbolic Flags

Quentin and I went down to DUMBO to view Cityscapes by ART YARD Artist Ed Rath on view Superfine 126 Front Street.

Ed Rath, Cityscapes installed at Superfine

Ed’s paintings of urban scenes look great installed high on a pink wall! Vera and I are working on an ART YARD Virtual Field Trip to the exhibition for PS 282 students. We hope to be able to share with you next week.


Kudos to Valerie Hegarty whose stunning installation piece Fresh Start is highlighted in Art Blooms Alongside Nature in Riverside Park by Hilarie M. Sheets in New York Times (June 3, 2021).

Valerie Hegarty, Fresh Start

“Vanitas painting is about impermanence, which is something we’ve all been feeling pretty hard this past year,” the artist Valerie Hegarty said, explaining the inspiration for her work, “Fresh Start.”


Keep it weird!

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